Obamacare a Boon to Telehealth, But Not to Traditional Reimbursement Models


Now that Obamacare officially can be accessed by Americans, discussions of Health Care Reform (HRC) are evolving into implementation strategies and timelines. Combined with the rising physician shortage, HRC is now being seen as quickening the acceptance of telehealth strategies to reach the majority of Americans who live outside metropolitan areas. In the Forbes 12/22/2013 article, Obamacare, Doctor Shortage To Spur $2 Billion Telehealth Market, we can see that the many creative and technology-based solutions offered by telehealth are the just-in-time solution to the immediate need to reach more people, lower costs and deliver better quality care.

How will outcomes be defined?

However bright the future is for telehealth companies and service providers, this same change is also worrisome to those who have read the fine print of HCR. As with any significant change through the centuries, change can lead to loss for those who are not paying attention. While the Forbes article celebrates the advantages of telehealth, it also heralds a harsh reality for professionals who are reliant on traditional compensation models. While such reimbursement models have here-to-date been seen as the norm for practitioners, more accountability is soon to be demanded.

More precisely, as HRC takes shape, reimbursement for professional services will no longer be measured in time spent with clients or patients. Rather, reimbursement will become more dependent on “outcomes.” How will outcomes be defined? Unlike disciplines where biometric markers such as blood tests and MRIscan be used to assess progress toward wellness, the behavioral services will soon be measured by instruments derived from a still-evolving and therefore controversial evidence base, augmented by the difficult element of consumer satisfaction.

Stay tuned to TMHI as we deliver more news about how HCR will change the way the behavioral services are delivered.

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